Google has improved it’s ability to spider and index Adobe Flash SWF files. It can index textual content as well as external links embedded in a Flash site.
Although I believe they’ve had the ability to spider flash files for awhile they have officially come out and announced it and also described more about what in Flash files they do index.
Q: What content can Google better index from these Flash files?
All of the text that users can see as they interact with your Flash file. If your website contains Flash, the textual content in your Flash files can be used when Google generates a snippet for your website. Also, the words that appear in your Flash files can be used to match query terms in Google searches.
In addition to finding and indexing the textual content in Flash files, we’re also discovering URLs that appear in Flash files, and feeding them into our crawling pipeline—just like we do with URLs that appear in non-Flash webpages. For example, if your Flash application contains links to pages inside your website, Google may now be better able to discover and crawl more of your website.
Q: What about non-textual content, such as images?
At present, we are only discovering and indexing textual content in Flash files. If your Flash files only include images, we will not recognize or index any text that may appear in those images. Similarly, we do not generate any anchor text for Flash buttons which target some URL, but which have no associated text.
Also note that we do not index FLV files, such as the videos that play on YouTube, because these files contain no text elements.
Q: What do I need to do to get Google to index the text in my Flash files?
Basically, you don’t need to do anything. The improvements that we have made do not require any special action on the part of web designers or webmasters. If you have Flash content on your website, we will automatically begin to index it, up to the limits of our current technical ability (see next question).
That said, you should be aware that Google is now able to see the text that appears to visitors of your website. If you prefer Google to ignore your less informative content, such as a “copyright” or “loading” message, consider replacing the text within an image, which will make it effectively invisible to us.
So if you want to hide any text from Google just replace it with an image and it will be invisible to them?
Anyway, I think Google improving it’s ability to index Flash based sites is good news for people with Flash based sites that don’t know any better or care about their rankings because I still see using Flash in it’s entirety for a website as a bad decision SEO wise – Also see “Case Against Flash“. It’s still better to use standard CSS/XHTML or plain HTML pages if you want to rank high for your industries keywords.
Also does anyone else see black hat SEO’s taking advantage of this? You can embed the entire encyclopedia in a small flash file that Google could essentially index if you wanted to. Or what about embedded links? I can definitely see this being abused. What do you think?